By Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Martin Friedman Senior Curator, Madison Square Park Conservancy
Public outdoor sculpture is a communal activity. During periods of art installation, visitors to Madison Square Park can watch a project unfold over days and weeks. People discuss their perceptions and ask questions of me, my colleagues at Madison Square Park Conservancy, the install crews, and the presenting artist. Oftentimes, park goers watch this process with a sense of wonderment and pride; I have seen groups of neighbors applaud an artist at key moments during a temporary work’s on-site creation. Once complete, the public role in public art is further revealed as people interact with the piece by walking around the sculpture, taking their lunch next to the work or considering the merits of the project in conversation with co-workers, friends and family.
Creating outdoor sculpture in an urban oasis like Madison Square Park is unlike any other art experience. In preparation for major shows, museums and galleries draw the curtain for behind-the-scenes activity. When the curtain is pulled back, an indoor exhibition is complete and camera-ready. There is great theatricality on the opening day. By contrast, in constructing public art in real time right before your eyes, people view almost cinematic progress as a sculpture is made.